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Four Steps to Tracking Your Progress

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Dec 29, 2021

Develop a Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Plan to Enhance Your Activity’s Effectiveness

You have received an award from USAID—congratulations! Now you will need to develop a monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) plan that outlines how you will assess progress, make decisions, and identify activity adjustments as well as solutions to challenges throughout the life cycle of your award. 

In most cases, partners will need to submit a proposed MEL plan within 90 days of receiving a USAID award. You may want to begin by reviewing the Agency’s How-To Note (PDF) on MEL plans. This document is a comprehensive guide that is geared toward USAID staff but is also useful for partners. 

Below are some key steps for you to keep in mind as you begin the process of developing your MEL plan. 

1. Review Your Award Language 

The USAID solicitation for your award may include specific requirements related to MEL. Be sure you know what is written into the award language, including any special requests that may be required under the solicitation. 

2. Meet with USAID to Discuss Expectations

Meet with your Agreement Officer's Representative (AOR) or Contracting Officer's Representative (COR) before drafting your MEL plan. This meeting could be part of a post-award meeting, an activity launch process, or a separate meeting. You and your AOR/COR should come out of this meeting with a shared understanding of what your MEL plan will encompass.

3. Draft Your Proposed MEL Plan and Submit It to USAID

There is no set format required for MEL plans, but the Agency has provided a template that partners might find helpful. In addition to describing key information like your monitoring processes and performance indicators, your MEL plan must also address how you will collect beneficiary feedback, respond to it, and report the feedback and response to USAID. As described above, you should ensure that your MEL plan aligns with your activity work plan and addresses all of the elements specified in your award agreement and as discussed with your USAID COR/AOR. 

4. Enhance Your Approach

Submitting your MEL plan is just the beginning of your MEL efforts. As your activity gets underway, you will use your MEL plan to learn from your data and integrate these lessons into future program improvements. USAID partners use the collaborating, learning, and adapting, or CLA, approach to take advantage of lessons learned. CLA involves pause-and-reflect sessions with your team to discuss the program, interpret monitoring and evaluation findings, map out opportunities, and examine how work is progressing. You can help USAID develop more effective programming strategies by regularly updating your AOR or COR about ways you use evidence to improve your activity. 

Additional Resources:

ADS Chapter (PDF) 

How-To Note: Activity MEL Plan (PDF)

Activity MEL Template

Understanding CLA 

How to Work with USAID: Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Training Module